Big Brother is Watching; or at Least, His Father is

I’d like to share a recent blogging mini-disaster that happened in one of my classes two weeks ago. The course is concerned with the laws and regulations governing advertising communications as defined by the Federal Trade Commission. As a class, we keep a blog where we post weekly responses to cases where promotion went legally wrong.

For a recent assignment, the class commented on a 2006 incident where 17-year-old Colin Braun, a motor-sports racer, was prohibited from racing in an event due to another driver’s sponsorship by a tobacco company. The FTC policy on tobacco sponsorship around minors is pretty strict, for obvious reasons.

Most of my classmates completed their posts within an hour of the deadline. To say the posts were 100% accurate would be 100% inaccurate. To the students in the class, this blog post was homework, and who really gives a hoot about homework? Well, Colin Braun’s father does.

We tend to forget blogs are public. People remind us about posting information on public forums all the time, almost as much as people say, for example, smoking tobacco is bad for you. Sometimes, when a deadlines approaching, we click the “post” button before we dot our i’s and check our facts. One of the responsibilities of a great PR professional is to keep an eye (and ear) out for what people are saying about your company, product, or client. Colin Braun’s father is the PR professional in this situation, since he read one of the student’s posts and commented on the blog correcting the student’s statements.

The situation was handled well. No one threw any punches. No one called anyone names. It was surprisingly drama free (major kudos to Mr. Braun for being professional). Nevertheless, in a different situation it could have been worse, and this is always important to keep in mind. So keep your blogging clean, ladies and gentleman. Part of being professional is being responsible. Everyone armed with a keyboard and a WordPress account needs to keep his or her safety on by double checking (if not triple checking) their work.

This guest blog was written by PRowl Public Relations staff member Keith Flanagan.

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